I Am A Closet Hoarder

I sprawled on the couch with a project in hand while the television blared for background noise. Too lazy to reach for the remote control, I was subjected to an episode of Hoarders on the A & E channel. I snickered to myself and muttered, “I’m not a hoarder … I’m a collector!” My smug expression promptly turned to horror as every HOARDER said the very same words!

Stricken, I turned off the television and pondered the question, “AM I a hoarder?” A casual visitor to my house would not think so, because I am adept at hiding it from plain sight. But I have seen my closets, my file drawers, and my spare room. The answer was a resounding, “YES.” I am a “closet hoarder.”

I’m fairly certain that every hoarder shown on television started the same way. They accumulated some junk that they hid in the closet … until it spilled out and engulfed the entire house. I couldn’t let that happen to me! Where could I start?

I know that one of my biggest problems is in throwing away paper … particularly magazines. Every time I stand in line at a check out stand, I fall for another screaming headline that promises to make me into something I am not. It started as a small problem, just a few glossy periodicals on the coffee table.

magazines on the coffee table

I needed them there, just in case my visitors were not amused by my scintillating conversation; they could flip through magazines. Besides, if I sat down for a few minutes, I might want to read one of them. More importantly, they protected the table top in case one of the cats decided to barf on that spot. It was just a minor problem …

It escalated.

I couldn’t throw away this magazine, because it had an article I might want to read again! That magazine had some pictures that would be great for collage (if I ever get my craft room straightened and if I have time to devote to that craft). This one has recipes, and that one has crochet patterns … they might all have blog fodder!

Suddenly, I had stacks of magazines everywhere. “How did that happen?” I wondered. That’s another statement that every hoarder says! Then, I had a brilliant idea.

Years ago, I had spent countless hours clipping magazine articles that might inspire me. I put them into plastic sleeves and contained them in ring binders. It saved a lot of space to do that. In fact, upstairs in one of the bookshelves, I had three enormous binders filled with wonderful articles that I had saved. I thought, “I should do that again!”

Dutifully, I gathered every old magazine in the house and brought them downstairs to stack by my sofa. I figured I could work a few magazines a night and it wouldn’t take that much time. I’d be getting organized, and I wouldn’t be a hoarder anymore!

I confess I was a bit surprised when I had gathered them all: the stack of magazines was waist high (and I’m a high-waisted woman who stands five foot and six!). It looked pretty daunting.

I dug to the back of the bookshelf to find the binders I had made before. Dusting off the cobwebs (I haven’t touched them since I moved into this house eight years ago), I opened to see what I had saved.

People, every stinkin’ article was about “how to get organized,” “clean your house in 10 minutes a day,” “time-saving tips and tricks,” or “how to live a stress free life.” The articles dated back to 1981!!!

I had an epiphany. I realized three important things:

  1. There was not a single thing in any of those magazines that could not be found on the World Wide Web.
  2. I do not have the time required to to clip all those “time-saving tips and tricks.”
  3. If I clipped them and put them in binders, it would be another eight years before I had another guilt trip and looked at them!

Without a moments hesitation, I grabbed an armload of magazines and marched out to the recycle bin. I tossed out every magazine without opening a single one!

I was jubilant! It felt like such a triumph! That began what I call my Fall Overhaul.

For the last few weeks, I have been sorting the junk stuffed in every nook and cranny in my determination to break my hoarding habit. I’ve had to confront some painful realizations about my need to keep certain items. Over the next few weeks, I’ll talk more about those issues and tell you where I have found some guidance. I can’t call myself “cured,” because I will always have a hoarding instinct. However, if I don’t stand too long in a check-out line, I might have the magazine hoarding under control.

Do any of you have a problem with hoarding certain items? Do you ignore it or deal with it … and if you deal with it, then how?

  16 comments for “I Am A Closet Hoarder

  1. September 23, 2010 at 6:39 am

    I’ll get back to you, I have some cleaning, straightening and organizing to do.

    • September 23, 2010 at 7:04 pm

      Are you mocking me, you silly man? If you knew how much I’m agonizing over this, you would stand and applaud!

      • September 23, 2010 at 7:05 pm

        Realize, Joe … that was tongue in cheek. If you watched me trying to sort, you would probably fall on the floor laughing šŸ˜ˆ

  2. September 23, 2010 at 9:03 am

    I’m a collector of fabric, scrapbooking supplies, and myriads of other things. I am a packrat from a long line of packrats. What I have been doing for articles/paper stuff relating to family tree type information is scanning them and saving to cd-rom. Then I’ve been mailing the paper to the appropriate family member to do with what they want.

    • September 23, 2010 at 7:06 pm

      Good idea! I’m trying to pass along some family heirlooms, myself … especially ephemera. I’m from a long line of pack rats, too … and this is a lot harder than most people think!

  3. Pat
    September 23, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    Yarns … fabrics … ribbons … buttons … beads …. dyes …. glass … that little wheel-thingy I found on the street that might make a useful something some day. Oh yeah, and interesting articles I might need some day, scrapbooking things, spinning & weaving tools and supplies, needlefelting, wetfelting, rug braiding, twining. Books. Hundreds and hundreds of books.
    Mostly creative things, aside from the books that I need as much as the air I breathe. I have no answers though on how to deal with. Also from a long line of packrats, we can justify anything. I might need it someday. SOMEONE might need it one day. I’ll use it to make something. I’ll end up with a gift for free or little money one day. Besides, trying to be environmentally minded, I HATE to send things to the landfill unnecessarily. (Besides, one day Shelly might need some crocheted squares!)

    • September 27, 2010 at 5:57 am

      Oh, gosh, Pat! You sound so much like me! Those are exactly the things I’m trying to purge (except for the yarn, of course, because Shelly DOES need crocheted squares :lol:). I enjoy having the articles on hand for creativity. As with your books, I need it “as much as the air I breathe,” however … it’s SMOTHERING me!!

  4. September 24, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    I have a problem with throwing out the piles of magazines, too. But mine come by subscription. I need to just quit renewing the subscriptions, but I’m always scared I’ll miss that one fantastic craft, recipe or cure-all for my psychoses. It’s books, though, that I truly hoard. It’s ridiculous. I just can’t get rid of them … unless it’s to the used book store in which I’ll get trade credit for MORE!

    • September 27, 2010 at 5:59 am

      See, Lisa, I wouldn’t buy subscriptions, because I feared I’d never read the magazines. My husband just took a load of books to the recycled book store … and yes, he got credit for more books. It’s crazy. Hey, I hear that Grandma’s Briefs was designated one of the Top 12 GRANDparent Blogs in GRAND Magazine’s “GRANDparent Web Awards 2010”. Hooray for you!!!

    • January 5, 2011 at 12:31 pm

      I had books everywhere too, until I got my Kindle. At least now the stacks are no larger than ONE little book, and they’re all right there on the thing’s memory for me to start whenever I want. I think I have something like 70 ebooks in my to-read pile.

  5. September 27, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    Oh do I have a website for you! It’s called “Freecycle” and it’s a little like Craigslist but better and more discriminating. You sign up and whenever you find something that you just can’t bear to throw away but need to get rid of, you list it with Freecycle. Then emails go out to all the members and from the emails you receive, you can pick who you believe might be the person who needs or will appreciate it the most. It is simply the best idea I have come across in a long time. And things get out to truly needy people, not just people who are grabbing free items and then relisting them for sale. In fact, that is one of the rules – you are not allowed to sell any item you take from a Freecycle member.

    Growing up military, you are forced into choosing what you truly can’t live without. Later on, as a young single mother, I secretly admit (shhhh!) that I had to pack and run a few times after being unable to afford rent. And now I just have 2 simple rules I live by: If it can be replaced for under $25, then out it goes. The other rule: If you can’t pack a 2 bedroom home/apartment/condo in 24 hours, then you have too much stuff.

    Last thing – just a little bit of gossip for you – my sister is married to a true hoarder. He is so bad that they were considered for the Hoarding show. Seriously considered. Ultimately the reason why the show decided not to use their home —which is packed floor to ceiling in every room of this 4 bedroom house except 1 bedroom and the living room — is because there are guns and ammunition all over the house. In file drawers, tops of closets, behind dressers. Bullets and guns everywhere. The show finally decided that since they film for 5 days for 12 hours a day with lots of equipment and wiring, that it would be too dangerous for their crew. Great – my sister is living on a potential explosion factory. Funny thing is, my sister never asked me why the show decided not to film their house. I think she has become so accustomed to the mess, she is blind to how bad and how dangerous it truly is.

    Remember – if you died tomorrow, just think of the comments the relatives will be making while they pack up your house.

    I AM . . .

    • September 30, 2010 at 5:04 pm

      Oh, wow, Barbara. Your sister’s place sounds frightening! For her sake, I hope they can get the clutter under control.

      You make some very good points learned from your days of constant moves. I like “If it can be replaced for under $25, then out it goes.” I’m going to start using that as a measure for my own junk! Thanks for sharing.

  6. January 5, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    I absolutely know what you mean. I love watching Hoarders because it scares the hell outa me. I’m the “before” that they always talk about. You know, “She was always a bit messy before, but it was under control until…” I have these urges to keep things that MIGHT be useful. I have yarn taking over at least two rooms of the house (I’m fighting back in the living room because for two months there was only one small clean spot on the couch) and I find it hard to resist a deal on things I like. I’ve been working very hard over about a year (sometimes even using techniques from the show) to reduce the urges, not just the mess. And I’ve made a concerted effort to either read or throw away magazines Right Now, and go through my desk and the kitchen counter before the mess gets to more than an inch or so.

    Anyway, I know where you’re coming from. And BRAVO!

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